By Per Peterson
All they needed was a sign.
They got it from the Internet.
And if you attended the recent Prairie Women’s Expo, chances are you know what this trio of Tracy ladies has been up to in the kitchen.
Mary Grunden, Mae Quigley and Ina Rykhus have started MIM’s Bake Shop (The MIM stands for May, Ina and Mary). They work out of Rykhus’ small kitchen at her home in Tracy. All three are pretty skilled in the kitchen, but it wasn’t until Grunden happened across a tasty nugget online last fall that they got their business really going strong.
“She was looking on the Internet for something and came across the Minnesota Cottage Law,” Rykhus said. “So she told me about it and I said, ‘Hmm, maybe it’s something we should try. Everyone always says, ‘You guys should start a lunch wagon, because we would buy from you.’”
Grunden said she was actually looking up information on Small Business Loans when she came across the Cottage Law.
“They brought it back so the little guy could sell cupcakes or whatever from their home,” she said.
The ladies hadn’t even heard of the law, which is 2015 legislation that gives home bakers the right to bake and sell their goods out of their home.
“It covers baked goods, any home canned goods that have a pH of 4.6 or lower — salsas, any fermented food, pickles, stuff like that — and jams and jellies …” Rykhus said.
“Without being inspected,” Grunden said, finishing Rykhus’ thought. “You don’t have to have the industrial kitchen, you don’t have to be inspected.”
All that’s required, Ryhkus said, is they’re registered with the state and take a food safe handling class. There is a $50 annual registration fee if a business makes $5,000 or more. They also have to make sure all their product is labeled with names, addresses, phone numbers, the date on which the product was made, and all ingredients, plus any known food allergies like milk, nuts and dairy.
“You can make up to $18,000 without having to become industrial and licensed,” Grunden said.
About the only thing MIMs can’t do is sell outside of the state of Minnesota. A person from another state can come pick something up and take it across the border, but they can’t bring it out-of-state.
“You can sell from your home, you can sell at farmers’ markets and at any community event,” said Rykhus. “You have to display signs saying that the food is home baked or home canned, and that’s subject to state inspection, and you have to have your certificate visible.”
The ladies were sort of testing the water on starting their business when Grunden discovered the Cottage Law, but given start-up costs and state regulations, they were somewhat hesitant to dive right in.
“We’re all getting up there (in age) and do we want to put ourselves out there for several thousands of dollars or more,” Rykhus said. “Then you got the insurance and everything.
All three hold jobs — two of them full-time — so it’s not always easy finding time to open the kitchen up.
“Evenings, Saturdays, Sundays, just depends on, you know, because we take orders unless there’s an event,” Grunden said.
For now, Rykhus said, MIMs will do about two events per year because, “boy, it’s a lot of work,” Rykhus said.
The trio was selling apple hand pies, cupcakes, mocha bars (almost like what the Tracy Bakery used to have) and cookies at the Women’s Expo.
“We could’ve sold probably 20, 30 more mocha bars,” Rykhus said. “We almost sold out of everything.”
The three women won’t be mistaken for hardcore businesswomen. They say they’re doing this for fun and for a way to spend time after retirement. And it keeps them close. Rykhus’ kitchen isn’t exactly something you would find in a restaurant.
“I have a small island,” Rykhus said. “I would love to have a 10-foot island. I’m a messy cook, but we get it done and it looks nice.
MIMs is currently taking orders but require a heads up at least three days in advance. They can be reached at 629-4736 or 626-5921.